By Michael T. Conner, originally published in the August/September, 2021 issue of Equity and Access
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to leverage equity for excellence was ad hoc – contextual silos with articulation, implementation, and developing a common definition of equity and access. The novelty of the virus exacerbated the economic factors as it pertains to equity in our schools throughout America.
As we begin to operationalize our practices in a post pandemic era, we have a unique opportunity to finally concertize equity, access, and opportunity for all students in the PreK-14 trajectory. The concept of no students marginalized – race, economic status, sexuality, cognitive ability, or language acquisition should be a grounded principle in every aspect of redesigning America’s education system.
Equity and excellence is defined by a modular business model where all students are active in the teaching and learning process (i.e. co-authoring). This encompasses elements of personalization and growth, while using data analytics to make informed decisions. It is imperative that districts exponentially elevate their equity agenda because we have experienced the residual impact of the pandemic. Since March 13, 2020, students experienced low connectivity levels with technology, opportunity gaps that are prevalent because of interpreted education, and basic elements of need became table stakes because of physical distancing protocols.
Because of these critical tenets coupled with the noted systemic social injustices, equity in education becomes a “must have” in lieu of “nice to have.”
Moving the equity agenda will be an arduous task – creating a model that is grounded on the foundation where all students will grow cognitively, socially, and emotionally. Equity in Middletown Public Schools means lamenting culturally responsive pedagogical practices to meet the diverse needs of every student. It is also defined as building the capital and capabilities within the ecosystem so every stakeholder has an equity lens for an effective change management process. Metabolizing cultural competence in the context of strategic performance management will enlist questions that are uncomfortable.
Painstakingly, disruptive equity work will continue to be difficult, albeit necessary if we are going to radically change the legacy model of the industrial era. The equilibrium of opportunity and challenge is finally here in Middletown Public Schools and beyond. President Biden and Secretary Cardona have provided the necessary resources to make the needed changes focused on equity, access, and excellence (ARP Act of 2021).
The time is now to be future-driven and bold. Creating an education model where all students are successful in their individualized pathway by 2025 becomes the moral imperative for everyone involved.